Happening upon Leon at Paradise felt like finding a hidden gem. It felt as if I was getting this special opportunity to see a young artist still yet to be discovered, and what a fool I was to think so. Once I entered Paradise I was completely wrong in thinking I was the only one that knew this incredible talent. The faces of the crowd were even more surprising, particularly the amount of men excitedly waiting to see her. You could feel the energy in the room and it continued to get stronger through the opener.
Wrabel came onto the stage shy and hiding behind his oversized, cableknit sweater. He was very honest about how nervous he was, but it didn’t show once he started singing. His comfort zone was behind the piano, though he was at his best once he stood up and allowed himself to be vulnerable. The crowd was excited to hear his popular songs, “11 Blocks” and “Bloodstain,” singing along passionately. But it was his newer tune “The Village,” that blew the crowd away and was followed by a roaring applause. Wrabel didn’t need the electronics and bumping beats that are heard in his recordings. It was all the more powerful just to watch him perform them stripped down, with only a piano and his haunting voice. What I enjoyed most, however, was his humble gratitude towards every member of the crowd and his adorable awkwardness anytime someone cheered for him. At the end of his set, he announced where he would be hanging after, encouraging anyone to come give him a hug. I absolutely would have had I not feared of losing my perfect position to watch Leon.
The suspense between sets was killing me, as it was for the rest of the crowd. The collective excitement was palpable and it exploded the minute she stepped out onto the stage. Her entrance alone rocked Paradise and once she centered herself, less than 10 feet away, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with her effortless beauty, radiating confidence. In her black leather mini-skirt and white, ruffled blouse, she was a vision of ‘70s chic. She opened with “Treasure,” immediately comfortable and grooving to every beat. Her intense eye contact with each and every member of the audience made the already intimate venue feel even smaller. I was wrapped in a trance the second she opened her mouth. Her voice sounded even better than her recordings and watching her perform them was surreal. She dances the way I wish I looked when I dance, so naturally sexy and free. In between songs, she would sip her whiskey and joke with the crowd. The funniest moment was her story about the last time she performed in Boston, when a female fan kept making sexual gestures towards her the entire concert, even during the ballads.
So many of her early songs are super fun to dance to but her ballads are what really shook the crowd. I hadn’t listened to “I Believe in Us” very many times before the show. But seeing her do it live really cut to my core as her sultry voice sang under the spotlight. You can feel all the pain in her songs and secretly wish you went through it too. By the end of the show my girl crush for her was through the roof. The best surprise was her funky cover of the Arctic Monkey’s hit “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High,” which rivaled the original. And of course her version of “Dreams” is so soulful and practically the closest I’d ever get to hearing the original live. I’m still reeling from seeing her and have serious post-concert depression. I’ve never felt so included in a concert and so close to the artist. Honestly my only wish is that I could be her friend.